Water Wars
EFL from Tech Central

What’s wrong with the following picture? As counterterrorism experts worry aloud about the risk of a USS Cole-style attack on commercial shipping, the number of violent attacks and acts of piracy on oil tankers and other commercial vessels worldwide has soared 37% over last year. Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy, tasked with protecting U.S. interests in all the world’s oceans, has shrunk to its smallest size in almost 100 years. What’s wrong is that the Cole was sent into a unsafe port by the state department. Fewer ships but more capable ones.

The trend in shipping attacks is alarming. The 234 attacks between January and June 2003 were not only more numerous but also more deadly and dangerous than before, with more deaths and hostage-takings. In addition, recent months have seen heavily armed attackers target small oil tankers in the Malacca Strait, in ambushes that the International Maritime Bureau, which compiles the data, describes as "politically motivated." Among the suspects are Muslim rebels from Indonesia’s breakaway region of Aceh, which has ties to international terrorism.

The dangerous reality of Southeast Asia’s crowded, narrow shipping lanes squares perfectly with Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vern Clark’s picture of an environment crying out for a new kind of U.S. Navy vessel for crying out loud. You can’t do that with 50,000 ton ships," Clark said, adding the Navy is in "desperate need" of a small combatant called the Littoral Combat Ship. What a surprise - a new gadget that will solve all our worries.

Congress is not used to seeing how important it is for the service to have a small combatant that can interdict ships carrying terrorists and pirates, can go in close to shore to do "littoral penetration," and can do so more cheaply and effectively, at $400 million a shot, than old-style frigates or larger vessels. Translation - buy us our new toy or we’ll blame lots of stuff on you.

The LCS represents a strategic leap forward and a means for the Navy to perform worldwide the essential 21st century missions of littoral penetration and sea control.

This stealth ship program is not the answer to the 15 ship Al Qaida navy. Un-mothballing the PHM’s, buying the PC’s that were going to insert Seal teams, commissioning some more FG-7 with Helo assets, buying and forward deploying Coast Guard Cutters are all better solutions. This stealth craft is a walking boondoggle with mission-creepitis. If I were going to weave in and out of dhow sizes craft, even the patrol boats that John Kerry served on might be more useful. Maybe LCACs. I don’t know but this beast ain’t the answer.
Posted by: Super Hose 2003-10-13